When I was a poetry fellow at my alma mater, I coordinated a lecture series for the English Department and got to meet editor, scholar, and one of my favorite poets, Kwame Dawes.

Dawes traveled to Jamaica in 2007 to create livehopelove.com, a collection of poems, photography, videos, and music documenting the lives of individuals living with AIDS in Jamaica.

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All of the work is read aloud by Dawes, and four featured pieces are accompanied by photo essays that guide the user through a visual narrative of the poem. Dawes’ poetry is inherently intimate, but the addition of visual, auditory, and interactive elements seamlessly dismantles the distance between the audience and the daily realities of the documented people. The effect is immersive, surprising, visceral, and beautiful in a way I’d never seen poetry be.

Our media traditions are old, particularly print media. I think we’ve been telling stories on paper for so long that when the internet came along, we replicated on our screens what we had perfected on paper, transplanting the limitations of print into the digital space.

We’re still oriented towards analog models today, despite having a toolset at our disposal capable of creating interactive journalism, documentaries, and even music videos. As technology evolves, replicating traditional forms of media on our screens seems like more and more of a missed opportunity.

My background is in writing, but I’ve found myself powerfully drawn to technology over the years because of the pioneering spirit and joyful curiosity the community exemplifies. There is a deeply ingrained ethos of experimentation, often just for experimentation’s sake, that results in a constant stream of innovation. In applying this ethos to his poetry, Dawes was able to turn Live Hope Love into something revolutionary. I want to apply this ethos to the media I create to build stories that are similarly immersive, engaging, curious, and joyfully experimental. That’s why I joined Ei’s second class—to integrate my disparate fields of study, to experiment with web-native storytelling, and to learn to do a job that is just beginning to exist.

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